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Asian Roundup

Iran escapes; Japan makes Cup quarterfinals

Posted: Saturday July 24, 2004 3:07PM; Updated: Saturday July 24, 2004 9:05PM
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BEIJING (Reuters) -- Iran pulled off an improbable late escape as holders Japan sailed into the Asian Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.

Three-time champions Iran hit back from two goals down to salvage a controversial 2-2 draw with Oman, defender Mohammad Nosrati snatching the equaliser deep into stoppage time.

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Japan also came from behind to beat Thailand 4-1 and become the second team to book a spot in the last eight after Uzbekistan had clinched their place on Thursday.

Unlucky to lose 1-0 to Japan in their opener, Oman were left heart-broken again after a dramatic finish against Iran.

The Gulf side, making their Asian Cup debut, were two goals up after a first-half double from striker Imad Ali and the frustration was boiling over among the Iran players.

Defenders Ali Badavi and Rahman Rezaei were involved in a heated row in the 57th minute, slapping each other in the face after Rezaei committed a needless foul on the edge of the box.

But Ali Karimi gave Iran a lifeline in the 63rd minute, pulling a goal back through a deflected shot before Nosrati struck with a looping header three minutes into stoppage time.

Nosrati was lucky to be on the pitch after trampling on the back of Oman scorer Ali moments before Karimi struck for Iran but referee Abdul Rahman of Bahrain did not see the incident.

"We were 2-0 up and then there was that bad foul," fumed Oman's Czech coach Milan Macala. "It was the most important moment of the match. What happened was clear for all to see."

CRUNCH GAME

Iran have four points from two games in Group D after beating Thailand 3-0 in midweek. They need a point from their crunch game against Japan on Wednesday to be sure of reaching the quarter-finals.

Like Iran, Japan found themselves behind early on in front of 40,000 spectators in sweltering Chongqing, many of whom booed the Japanese national anthem and jeered the team throughout.

Thai striker Sutee Suksomkit gave Japan a jolt in the 12th minute, rifling a left-foot shot past goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi from 25 metres.

But Italian-based playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura sparked a Japanese fightback by curling in a 21st-minute free kick for his second goal of the tournament.

Defender Yuji Nakazawa scored twice and midfielder Takashi Fukunishi was also on target as Japan outclassed Thailand to reach the last eight.

"We kept our shape better in the second half and were able to win comfortably," said Japan coach Zico. "It was a victory for our concentration and mental strength."

Asked about the hostile atmosphere, Zico shrugged: "If we score four goals every time we are booed, I hope we get more of it in our next game. They can keep booing as long as we win."

There is lingering resentment among many in China because of Japan's invasion and occupation of parts of the country from 1937 to 1945.

South Korea coach Bonfrere lays down the law

JINAN, China (Reuters) -- Four games into the job, South Korea coach Jo Bonfrere has left his players in no doubt who is in charge.

The Dutchman dropped several top players for Friday's Asian Cup clash with the United Arab Emirates after being held to a disappointing 0-0 draw by Jordan in their opening game.

Bonfrere left 2002 World Cup heroes Ahn Jung-hwan and Park Ji-sung on the bench but they made an immediate impact after coming on to help South Korea to a 2-0 win.

"Some players just didn't really perform to expectations in the previous game so I left them out," said the former Nigeria coach.

"We started well in first half, we controlled the game and created some good chances. We deserved our lead after we scored from the free kick."

The 1-0 halftime lead, however, flattered South Korea. The 2002 World Cup semi-finalists were under pressure for much of the time and were twice rescued by goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae before Lee Dong-gook struck in the 41st minute.

Substitute Ahn, who scored the golden goal that knocked Italy out of the 2002 World Cup, added a second in injury time.

South Korea are level with Jordan on four points, with identical goal difference, after two games in Group B and cannot afford any slip-ups against Kuwait in the final game on Tuesday.

Park, who scored one of the goals of the 2002 World Cup against Portugal, was disappointed not to start against the UAE after missing the Jordan game with an ankle injury.

"As a player you always want to start," said the PSV Eindhoven midfielder. "But the coach makes the decisions and all you can do is hope you are picked."

Bonfrere has only one real injury concern, former Trabzonspor midfielder Lee Eul-yong carrying a knock from the UAE match.

Experienced defender Kim Tae-young should be fit after recovering from a knee injury.

"Kim wanted to play against the UAE but if he had played 45 minutes we might have lost him for two weeks," said South Korea physio Robert Jaspert.

Van der Lem unconcerned about job prospects

CHENGDU, China (Reuters) -- Saudi Arabia coach Gerard van der Lem refused to allow media speculation he was about to lose his job distract him on Saturday of ensuring his side qualify for the Asian Cup quarter-finals.

"I'm not afraid of it. It is not a pressure for me at all," the embattled Dutchman said when asked if his future with the three-times Cup champions hinged on the squad's final group match against Iraq on Monday.

"You never get assurances. You know if you are a coach in professional football, this can always happen."

Saudi Arabia, who had a 19-game unbeaten streak broken when they lost 1-0 to Uzbekistan on Thursday, are bottom of Group C and need to beat Iraq to give them any hope of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Van der Lem, who has blamed his side's slump on an overcrowded domestic schedule and injuries to several players, spent 20 minutes speaking to the vice-chairman of the Saudi Football Federation, Prince Nawaf Bin Faisal, at the end of Saturday's practice.

"It is not acceptable to Prince Sultan bin Fahd, to me or to the Saudi fans," said Bin Faisal of the group favourites' loss to Uzbekistan and 2-2 draw with Turkmenistan.

"At this moment he is my coach, and we trust him. I think the next game with Iraq will be a different game."

Despite the dressing down on Saturday, Van der Lem said the Saudi officials were aware of his problems.

"These people are reasonable people, they are intelligent people. They had success till now with this coach and they also know that I have arguments and the team has arguments why they are not playing like they should be.

"It is better to take care of these problems first.

"Many times you will see that they change the coach and it will not solve anything."

Surging China faces Qatar

BEIJING (AP) -- Fresh from a 5-0 battering of Indonesia, hosts China should have little trouble against struggling Qatar in their Asian Cup Group A match Sunday, despite being without key injured forward Hao Haidong.

With a draw against Bahrain in its opening match, China already have four points, and a tie would almost certainly be enough clinch a berth in the tournament's second round. China have played Qatar ten times in international competition, winning five times, losing twice and drawing three times.

However, the loss of Hao to ankle and knee injuries suffered during the Indonesia game leaves Dutch-born coach Arie Haan in a quandary. While Hao is considered close to retirement at age 33, no Chinese player has emerged as his obvious successor and Haan has repeatedly relied on Hao to provide goals during China's recent matches.

Haan is expected to pick a replacement from three forwards: talented youngster Li Jinyu, veteran Li Yi, and newcomer Zhang Shuo. Midfielder Shao Jiayi, who plays for 1860 Munich in Germany, has also proven himself a force on offense, scoring twice against Indonesia.

Qatar have had a disappointing tournament, falling 1-0 to Indonesia and only eking out only a 1-1 draw against Bahrain. Former coach Philippe Troussier was sacked after the loss to Indonesia, replaced by former under-19 coach Saeid Al Misnad.

China's best finish in the tournament was third place in 1976 and 1992, while Kuwait has never progressed beyond the quarter finals round.

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Squads:

China: Liu Yunfei, Sun Xiang, Zhang Yaokun, Zheng Zhi, Shao Jiayi, Sun Jihai, Zheng Bin, Hao Haidong, Li Yi, Wei Xin, Xu Yulong, Li Weifeng, Zhao Junzhe, Ji Mingyi, Li Xiaopeng, Zhang Shuo, Li Ming, Yan Song, Li Jian, Zhou Haibin, Zhou Ting, Li Jinyu.

Qatar: Wesam Rizik, Abdulrahman Mesbeh, Ezzat Jadoua Abumousa, Nayef Mubarak, Ahmad Musa, Saad Sattam, Seyd Ali Bechir, Waleed Hamzah Rasoul, Magid Mohamed, Ali Mejbel Fartoos, Saoud Fath, Waleed Mohyaden, Mohammed Gholam, Jassim Yousuf, Selman Mesbeh, Abdulaziz Ali Abdulla, Gader Mousa Alown, Jamal Jouhar Fairooz, Muamer Abdulrab, Abdulaziz Karim Dad, Qasem Abdullhamed, Bilal Mohammed.

Bahrain must win, Indonesia can draw to qualify

JINAN, China (AP) -- Bahrain coach Srecko Juricic is optimistic the Middle Eastern side will qualify for the knockout stage of the Asian Cup with a win over Indonesia on Sunday.

But Juricic's Indonesian rival is warning against writing off his team, although it is the lowest-ranked national side taking part in the tournament.

"We have done well so far, but even before the tournament started we knew that to qualify we would have to beat Indonesia," Indonesia's Bulgarian-born coach Ivan Kolev said. "Nothing in that happened in the past two rounds has changed that."

Juricic's squad is currently in third place in Group A with 2 points, after unexpectedly holding hosts China to a 2-2 draw in the tournament's opening match and then tying Gulf rivals Qatar 1-1.

Indonesia, meanwhile, trails one point behind group leader China -- which has four -- and can probably afford to draw against Bahrain to progress into the quarterfinals.

Qatar, which meets China on Sunday at Beijing, is last in the group with a single point.

Juricic, a Croat who took over as Bahrain's coach last year, predicted that his player's better physical condition and endurance would be enough for a win over Indonesia, which lost 5-0 to China after beating Qatar 2-1 in their first match.

But Kolev was confident despite the drubbing by China -- which he attributed to a controversial second caution that resulted in the expulsion of defender in the 25th minute.

Kolev said his squad would be playing without any pressure after claiming Indonesia's first ever Asian Cup victory.

"We are not at all concerned by the result against China," he said. "It had very little to do with how we played, and we are determined to show our true value in the last group match."

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Squads:

Indonesia: Hendro Kartiko, Agung Setiabudi, Alexander Pulalo, Ismed Sofyan, Aples Gidion Tecuari, Warsidi Ardi, Muhamad Jaenal Ichwan, Ellie Eboy, Aliyudin, Punaryo Astaman, Yandri Christian Pitoy, Budi Sudarsono, Syamsul Bachri, Hary Saputra, Firmansyah Agus, Bambang Pamungkas, Rochi Putiray, Agus Indra Kurniawan, Hamka Hamsah, Mamam Abdurachman, Amir Yusuf Pohan, I Komang Putra Adnyana.

Bahrain: Abdulrahman Abdul Karim, Mohamed Hasan, Hassan Mosawi, Ghazi Al Kawari, Sayed Mahmood Jalal, Rashed Al Dosari, Husain Ali, Mohamed Salmeen, Faisal Abdulaziz, Mohamed Juma, Talal Yusu, Salman Isa, Saleh Farhan, Sayed Mohamed, Hussain Baba, Mohamed Jaffar, Adel Abbas, Sayed Jaffer, Ali Saeed, Duaij Naser, Mohamed Hubail, A'ala Hubail.

Chinese talisman could miss rest of Asian Cup

BEIJING (Reuters) -- China's talisman Hao Haidong could miss the rest of the Asian Cup after suffering a "serious ankle injury," Chinese officials said on Saturday.

The 33-year-old striker was the victim of a wild tackle during China's 5-0 win over Indonesia in midweek, rupturing tendons in his left ankle.

Hao, a former bad boy of Chinese soccer, will have further tests to determine if he can play any further part in the tournament.

"The injury to his ankle is very serious," Chinese media officer Dong Hua said.

""We are not sure if he can play again in the tournament. We will ask the doctors for a full diagnosis and take a decision."

But Hao, banned from Asian competitions for a year in 1999 after spitting at a referee at the 1998 Asian Games, insisted he could return in time for the Asian Cup final on August 7.

"That's life. It happens to footballers," said Hao, who scored his 36th goal in 97 internationals against Indonesia in Beijing.

'BAD LUCK'

"It's just bad luck. I think China can still do well at home. I don't think I am that important. I am just one of 11 players.

"China have a number of good strikers who have proved they can score for their country. If we get to the final, then I hope I can be fit for that."

Hao is vital to China coach Arie Haan's plans, and has scored in all three of China's 2006 World Cup qualifying games so far.

With the striker missing, Dutchman Haan will have to choose from Li Jinyu, Li Yi and Zhang Shuo up front.

China, who have never won the Asian Cup, were held to a 2-2 draw by Bahrain in the opening game but now lead Group A with four points, one ahead of Indonesia.

The hosts take on Qatar in their final group game on Sunday.

Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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